By Richard M. Frank
The educating of the basrian institution of the Mu'tazila within the Classical interval
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Additional info for Beings and Their Attributes: The Teaching of the Basrian School of the Mu'Tazila in the Classical Period (Environmental Analytical and Physical Chemistry Series)
25 Al-Gubba'i*, it is plain, was quite aware of the implications of the system's conceptual framework and exploited its possibilities with considerable insight. It had, however, certain serious limitations which were, within the overall context, particularly conspicuous. One paramount aim of the kalâm was to elaborate a speculative understanding of God's attributes and this, as well as other central concerns of the science, required a systematic theory and understanding of the attributes of being in general.
The fâ'ida or "meaning" ("a knowledge of Him" in a second sense), then, al-Gubba'i* specifies through a semantic analysis: knowing is contrary to not-knowing and to ignorance and, since the proposition is true, the contrary proposition is false and also, since it is true, there must be at least one object that He knows. To know the truth of the proposition, then, is to know God (that He is: He could not be knowing if He were nonexistent) and to know something about Him. Now since the corporeal knower, according to al-Gubba'i* and the rest of the Basrians, knows by virtue of an entitative act of knowing (bi-`ilmin), his analysis and paraphrase of the proposition Zaydun `âlimun (Zayd is knowing) differs from that of Allahu `âlimun.
For this very reason, however, the modern reader can find no key or clue to their vocabulary and conception outside the texts themselves and those other Muslim writings that belong to and form an integral part of their original context. There are no lists of definitions, nor do any of the terms have strict equivalents in the philosophical vocabulary of classical antiquity or in the theological vocabulary of the Greek Fathers. To seek to make such equivalences is not merely hazardous but, as has become plain enough, most often conducive to confusion.